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Johnson Paces Hendrick in Daytona 500 Qualifying

 

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 8, 2004) – Jimmie Johnson and Team Lowe’s Racing led Hendrick Motorsports in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series time trials on Sunday, posting the 14th-best lap of the 45-team session.

At a windy Daytona International Speedway, Johnson drove his No. 48 Chevrolet to a quick lap of 187.223 mph (48.071 seconds) in Daytona 500 qualifying.

The El Cajon, Calif., native will have the chance to improve that position on Thursday when he starts seventh in the second Gatorade 125-mile qualifying race.

“It was a great effort,” Johnson said.  “We’re definitely trying to go faster.  We’re also focusing a little more on the ‘500’ and on the downforce of the car for the ‘500.’

“We would have loved to be on the pole and be on the front row and not have to worry about the 125s, but that’s not the way it turned out.”

Rookie Brian Vickers will join his teammate in the second “125” after a time-trial lap of 186.505 mph (48.256 seconds), good enough for 26th overall.

“All in all, I’m real proud of the guys,” said Vickers, driver of the No. 25 GMAC Financial Services Chevy.  “We had a couple of problems in practice, but they never gave up.  They worked through it, and we got out there and had a good car in qualifying.”

The 20-year-old will start on the inside of Row 7 on Thursday, next to defending Cup Series champion Matt Kenseth.

Former champs Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon will compete in the first Gatorade 125 after qualifying 31st and 39th, respectively.

Driving the No. 5 Kellogg’s / got milk? Chevy, Labonte (186.193 mph, 48.337 seconds) will start on the outside of Row 8, while Gordon (184.721 mph, 48.722 seconds) will take the green flag on the outside of Row 10 in the No. 24 DuPont Monte Carlo.

Greg Biffle earned the Daytona 500 pole position with a lap of 188.387 mph (47.774 seconds).

The Gatorade 125-mile qualifying races for the Daytona 500 will be broadcast live from Daytona International Speedway by TNT (1 p.m. ET) and MRN Radio (12:30 p.m. ET) on Thursday, Feb. 12.

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